blackbuildernumber-7-md7 PROBLEMS WORTH PONDERING

  1. Do we      want a society where income      inequality is increasing exponentially and the purchasing power      and strength of the middle and working classes in shrinking? Keep in mind      the mantra of numbers “20-45-13”. Those are the percentages of wealth held      by the top 1%, the top 10%, and the bottom 50% of the US      population. Maybe for some this is good and healthy or “natural      selection”—but for others it Is Not. So, What Is To Be Done? If not social      engineering, tax reform, or government action: what? Who will fix this?      Almost everyone agrees that Congress has become dysfunctional; more and      more are agreeing that aspects of the US economy are increasingly      dysfunctional.


  1. Closely      related—and many of these points are just summaries of our previous      posts—the rich are “devouring their own children—and themselves.” By the      same, documented, reduced consumption power of the “bottom 75% of the      population, their standard of living and, eventually, that of all but the      most insulated of the super-rich are in jeopardy.


  1. Objections      have been raised that some of this kind of talk is pushing “class warfare.” But class      warfare is already a reality. Just not the kind that alarms conservatives      and wealthy folks: that is, the demands of the weaker 50% for changes in      the system from the top 1% or 10%. The class war that is The Reality:      weakening regulations corporate/banks/environment/workplace, tax structure      and loopholes, ability to shelter money overseas, demonization of      government, attempts to disenfranchise or block registration of poorer and      not-likely-Republican voters, the War on Labor, the War on Teachers, the      corporatization and neutering of the media—These amount to class warfare      of a kind not talked about, the Real War.


  1. “The      American Society of Civil Engineers estimates it would take $1.6 trillion      over 5 years to bring the nations bridges, dams, sewer systems, and other infrastructure up to good      [not excellent] condition” (L. Mishel and L. Cleeland in Lardner and      Lowenthal, Thinking Big, 2009, p. 11 That is a conservative estimates      and represent a Lot of Jobs and a national project far more worthy than      the Iraq and Vietnam Wars, probably most of Afghanistan, and arguably even      the Apollo Moon missions. Lots of jobs here. It is certain that government      and the private sector could work out an arrangement to create these jobs      and rationally pull this off. The pathetic thing is that the political      willpower and ideologizing has gotten in the way.


  1. The      same could be said of education,      where all of the big talking has been on teacher productivity and school      responsibility and not putting money Into schools and teachers and teacher      training. A lot of jobs here too. What is wrong with this picture: advanced      European societies, with per capita incomes higher than the U.S.’s (mean)      and Median incomes considerably higher, put far higher proportions of      their national GDP and government budgets into education than does the US.      The US      is falling farther behind European and some Asian countries in this      econo-educational indicators. And, again the wealth disparity, related to      education equity, in the US      has led to resemble the Russian and Latin American patterns [Brazil is      actually catching up here] than to the European]. (Mishel and Cleeland,      p.8) These authors also estimate, along with others, that revamping the      physical plant of schools themselves is a minimum $20 billion project, the      addressing of which would generate At Least 250,000 jobs. If this is      socialism, bring it on.


  1. Health care- It is time to      get off of the defensive in bringing 50 million Americans, especially in      2013-14, under national health care—of a sort. And the many other benefits      of the Affordable Health Care Act. This blog makes no apologies for these      benefits and urges the democrats to develop some more backbone and issue      fewer disclaimers about flaws in the reforms, many of which were caused by      concessions to the republicans in Congress, their far right constituencies,      the “bought” (e.g. Fox) media.


7.         National defense- Speaking of reordering priorities, The defense budget is still designed to protect a Cold War World (to say nothing of “Homeland Security” reality. The $700 billion currently spent (not including massive—and usually deserved veterans benefits, which arte, after all part of defense as well as being merited rewards for those who do the heavy lifting. Ex-defense officials turned policy scholars, such as Lawrence Korb of Brookings, have estimated, along with the Center for Defense Information, that easily 10-20% of defense costs could be trimmed with no impairment to the US world mission or any rational semblance thereof. More detail will follow in future columns, but the argument for sometime has focused on eliminating waste redundancy, duplication, mission creep and other dysfunctions, which, logically, must effect Defense bureaucracies as much as they effect all of the other public and private bureaucracies that we love to take aim at! (Excuse the pun).


  1. Just catching up with the news: “Temp work raises long-term questions for economy,” article by Charles Wilbanks, MoneyWatch, March 7, 2013,


    that one-third or more American workers have contingent status–no full-time security or benefits.

    It’s news from March, but I just heard it on the radio today, so I looked it up.


    Actually, there is evidence that many workers prefer it this way:

    “Randstad Workforce360 Study: U.S. Companies Elevating Contingency Staffing Plans to Permanent Policy,”


    But what happens to economic security and family/household economic planning?

    And with no employee health benefits, Obamacare will become even more important.

    If, as the randstadusa article argues, this is a good thing for U.S. business and the overall economy, what new policies should be put in place to insure that these general benefits are not attained at the expense of the physical/mental health of the contingency contingent.

    Art Lerman


  2. Most informative and provocative. More on this soon. I wish and anticipate more interaction of questions like these. My wife is encouraging the idea of getting Jeffrey Sachs involved in the blog/book project. And there are others!


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